My upcoming EPS paper on whether determinism follows from compatibilism
Here is the abstract of the paper I will read at the 2014 annual meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.
Does Compatibilism Entail Determinism?
A Pragmatic Argument From Purpose in Evil
The debate on the nature of free will and divine providence, which has been showcased for centuries in the theological world between so-called ‘Arminians’ and ‘Calvinists’, is often (and appropriately) seen in the philosophical world to be between ‘libertarians’ and ‘compatibilists’. But while the thesis of libertarianism straightforwardly entails indeterminism as affirmed by all Arminians, compatibilism on the other hand does not commit its Calvinist proponents to the truth of theological determinism, only to its compatibility with human moral responsibility. Given this, even if Calvinist philosophers were to successfully establish compatibilism, the question of determinism would remain. Supposing the compatibilist arguments are successful, God could determine human choices without doing violence to human moral responsibility, but has He? Typically, Calvinists find support for this stronger contention in biblical exegesis, or in the traditional philosophical arguments against indeterminism. The present paper aims to offer an alternative philosophical route, based upon the purposelessness of evil in an indeterministic world. It argues that God, as a maximally great being would only permit (or risk) evil with morally sufficient reasons in the form of compensating goods, and that if indeterminism is true, at least some evil results from the misuse of libertarian free will alone, serving no other good purpose. It entails that unless libertarian free will is itself a necessary safeguard of moral responsibility or something very much like it, God would not commit to it with its attached price tag of otherwise purposeless evil. From these premises, it is argued that determinism does follow from a robust compatibilism: if God could determine human choices thereby securing purpose in evil while preserving human moral responsibility, then He probably has.
[I am re-posting this piece here, as the forum on which it was formerly posted is being decommissioned]
A number of people lately have been intrigued to meet a French
theologian, and have asked me to tell them the story of how I, a French atheist,
became a Christian scholar. Even the theologians and apologists I met recently
at the ETS Conference in Baltimore (where by God’s grace I
was delivering my first scholarly paper) seemed to care (understandably) more
about my conversion from atheism than my immediate theology paper! Therefore, it
seemed fitting to type it up properly, to have a clean telling of that story of
God breaking into my life, ready to be shared with people who ask. So here it is
(and please let me know if you spot spelling mistakes or awkward sentences, I’m
still French after all!) FROMRELIGIOUSATHEISM TO SECULARATHEISM
I grew up in a wonderfully loving family in France, near Paris. I
was the second of 3 children. We were nominally Roman Catholic, and would …
-"how can we reconcile a God of love with the (Calvinist) belief that He decrees some (or so many) people to perish?"
At the end of last Saturday's conference on the problem of evil, wherein I presented on "Calvinists and Arminians on the problem of evil: who can say what?", a thoughtful gentleman came and asked me the above question—definitely an important one for Calvinists like me to think about. We briefly discussed the matter, and it made me realize I had some things to say about the topic, which I hadn't read elsewhere before, so it called for a post. Here is what I have to say in response.
Love and the divine will
The question is raising the worry that there may be an incompatibility between the Calvinist doctrine
of reprobation, and a certain attribute of God, namely the (undisputedly biblical) fact that God is love. When you phrase the objection as an argument, you see that it is really a special case of the problem of evil that would go something l…
Here is the paper I presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society in San Diego. Does Compatibilism Entail Determinism?A Pragmatic Argument From Purpose in Evilby Guillaume Bignon
debate on the nature of free will and divine providence, which has been
showcased for centuries in the theological world between so-called ‘Arminians’
and ‘Calvinists’, is often (and appropriately) seen in the philosophical world
to be between ‘libertarians’ and ‘compatibilists’. On
the one side, ‘Arminians’ (understood broadly enough to include open theists,
simple-foreknowledge Arminians and Molinists), are libertarians. They uphold
‘libertarian free will’ affirming that human free choices are not determined by
God’s providential decree. Rather, given the totality of God’s providential
dealings at the moment of choice, the free agent remains able to choose either
way; he is not determined to pick one
option over another. Most libertarians are also ‘incompatibilists’, that i…